Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Turkey Won't Bar Sweden, Finland From Joining NATO In Blow To Putin; Biden: NATO Will Expand, "Exactly" What Putin "Don't Want"; New U.S. Troop & Equipment Moves To Bolster Security In Europe; Zelenskyy Asks NATO: "Has Ukraine Not Paid Enough" To Join; Ex-WH Aide Gives First-Hand Account To Trump's Jan 6 Actions; New Testimony Raises Questions About Trump's Legal Jeopardy; Ex-WH Aide: I Was Told Trump Lunged At Secret Service; Cheney: We've Seen Evidence Of Possible Witness Tampering. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 29, 2022 - 12:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But I don't think U.S. officials were expecting to get here this quickly. They did not think that this issue would actually be resolved at this NATO summit in Madrid, where President Biden has been having these meetings with world leaders, really with Russia's invasion of Ukraine looming over it at all. But now they are sitting down one on one now that Turkey has dropped its objections.

We should note the White House says, that Turkey did not ask for anything in return for dropping its objections. The White House said, they did not promise anything in return for doing so either. But the questions of how exactly this came to be - remains to be seen the fine details of how they actually came to this agreement, because it certainly is one of the biggest takeaways from President Biden's time here in Madrid, which is that now it looks like it is going to go from 30 members in NATO to 32, once Of course, the ratification process has started and been completed.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Kaitlan Collins, live for us on the scene in Madrid, a very consequential NATO summit. Kaitlan, thank you. Let's bring the conversation back of inward. We can start just by putting the map up of the NATO expansion with Finland and Sweden, joining NATO and what that means. Number one, you have Finland and its border with Russia now in the NATO alliance. Then you have Sweden just follow the waterways, a key access to the Baltic Sea.

This is exactly Kylie Atwood if Vladimir Putin did not want. Vladimir Putin thought four months ago when he invaded Ukraine, it would divide the west. It would split NATO. Some might want to object, others would just say, we don't want to spend the time, the money, the resources on this. This is a diplomatic victory for President Biden, getting Turkey to drop its objections, and it is a snub at Vladimir Putin.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Putin didn't want NATO expanded along Russia's borders. And that is exactly what they are getting. Today with this movement for Sweden and Finland, which as you note, it has an 800-mile border with Russia, joining NATO. So, it can't be overstated just how significant that is. When you look at what Putin was trying to accomplish with its invasion of Ukraine and what it is actually getting right now.

But it is also significant, as Kaitlan was noting that the Biden administration, European officials didn't necessarily expect that this was going to happen today. And so, the fact that they were able to pull this off is significant. And President Biden was engaged diplomatically on this, but officials said he was strategically engaged.

He didn't over engage with Turkey on this, because the fear was that if the United States was in the middle of this debacle over what Turkey wanted for Finland and Sweden to join, that then Turkey could raise the costs. And that's exactly what they didn't allow Turkey to do. And they did get these countries to eventually join.

KING: And so, you get an expansion of NATO, a victory for President Biden, a victory for the west. At a time when if you look at the ground in Ukraine, Putin is racking up. So, it was important for the president. Our colleague, Kevin Liptak, and others reporting on this. The president knew this moment was important. So, he got this to the finish line.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, he did. And in fact, it was President Biden who initially raised this idea with the Finnish president back in December of potentially joining NATO, that was before Russia actually launched its invasion as they were amassing troops on the border with Ukraine.

So, it is a credit to President Biden and his administration. And this was ultimately able to be pulled off. And to this point about Russia getting the opposite of what it was looking for initially, you don't only have these two additional countries join NATO, you also have 20,000 additional U.S. troops stationed in Europe than before this invasion took place.

You now have this announcement that just happened overnight of the Fifth Army being permanently headquartered in Poland. All of these are significant military moves, force posture adjustments, as the administration says, that are the opposite of what Russia was looking for. But it's exactly what they're getting, because as a direct consequence of their invasion.

KING: And to that point, we can show the new U.S. military moves, the president United States is announcing. I came to Washington in late 1988. Soon after that the Berlin Wall fell, and the whole conversation was the United States was going to pull back. We needed fewer troops in Europe because Russia was going to become, you know, some sort of a partner.

Now you see the redrawing the map of Europe, not only with Finland and Sweden joining, but new U.S. fighter jets going to the U.K., additional defense and other capabilities in Germany, but most significantly, a permanent for the Fifth Army Corps in Poland, former Soviet bloc nation, maintain extra brigade of troops in Romania, former Soviet bloc nation additional defenses in Italy as well. This is a remaking of the map, and essentially a throwing out the last generation, which was Russia will be less of a threat. The United States can withdraw, NATO can be almost less military, if you will, to OK, Putin is more of a threat, beef up.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Russia is the adversary at this point. You saw that come out of this NATO summit. It's been clear from the nations thus far. The president in the White House have been clear that they're still not going to send American troops on the ground to Ukraine.

But there is a consistency here with the past few months both with deploying different military equipment, but also rallying other nations in this region to all, both through economic sanctions as well as a military presence in those different nations that we were talking about. Poland, and what have you, surrounding just on the periphery of Russia to have a unified effort here.


I mean, when you talk to the White House, they would say that this still marks as you were saying earlier, John, one of the more significant accomplishments for the Biden administration, even if it's not a direct intervention with military troops, it was about unifying the west around to press Putin and try over - there's a question, over how long, but try and dissuade him and try to pull out of him praying.

KING: And if we could put the map back up, the NATO map with Finland and Sweden joining. And yet, despite this incredibly dramatic historic development of remapping of Europe again in the post-cold war era, if you will, as we enter a new chapter. You see Ukraine on the map there. This is all because of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Norway today saying, we're going to send more heavy weapons. The United States to send more - sending heavy weapons.

So, you get a as long as it takes commitment from the NATO countries to Ukraine. And yet, Ukraine still feels left out. It just now is starting the European Union application process, not as quickly as it was like. Listen to President Zelenskyy today. President Zelenskyy says, why can't you drop your rules? Look at what has happened in the world. Look at what my people have done to fight Vladimir Putin. Why won't you let us in NATO?


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: NATO's open-door policy should remind us of the mechanism of the old key metric barriers. They are open. As soon as you approach them, they are shelved until you pay. As Ukraine not paid enough, this is our contribution to the defense of Europe and the entire civilization and not enough.


KING: This is a moment where President Zelenskyy is saying, drop the rules, drop the process, do something extraordinary, because I'm doing something extraordinary. But NATO so far saying no, process. MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. There is still that potential threat of, if you allow Ukraine into NATO, well, what is Russia going to do? Then you start that whole process of, if you attack one, then you attack all of us? What does that mean for the United States, for all of these other countries and for the world?

And I think to everyone's point here, this is a moment of credibility for the Biden administration. You all remember, on the campaign trail, when he was trying to differentiate himself from a lot of these Democratic candidates, he was saying, I have the foreign policy experience. I can bring these people to the table and make deals.

That was something that was really questioned by voters after the pullout of troop, American troops in Afghanistan, this could potentially be a point where people are saying, OK, maybe he is able to do this. Maybe this administration is able to foment these new relationships or strengthen these relationships abroad. But I don't know how much that might play in the midterms, some people are focused on other things at here at home.

KING: Right. It is a big moment for the president on the world stage. The question is does it translate here at home? But to Zelenskyy's question that, you know, none of you thought we could do this. We have stood up to Russia. We have put - yes, Russia is making gains on the ground. But we have proved Putin cannot just come and take our country. Is there is that - if you admit Ukraine to NATO, Article 5 takes effect, it's under attack. Therefore, the whole NATO alliance is at war with Russia. That's not going to happen.

ATWOOD: Right.

KING: What are the conversations? Is there some other accommodation? Or is it just keep sending in heavy weapons and hope?

ATWOOD: Well, I think it is an interesting question, because Zelenskyy has been making this argument for quite some time that Ukraine should be a member of NATO. But his argument is strengthened right now. You can't deny that what he is saying is true that Ukraine is defending Europe from Russia right now.

That is fundamentally what we are watching happen. And he acknowledged in those remarks that they are able to do that because of the support of the United States and the European countries, providing them with the military capabilities that they need.

But I do think when this conflict is in the rearview mirror, and that's, of course important, because they couldn't have Ukraine joined right now, because of the Article 5 thing. I do think it will be a different conversation over whether Ukraine should or can join NATO. The question is, when does that come? Because there is no end in sight for this conflict.

DIAMOND: And I also think that as much as it's a credit to the Biden administration for having rallied this coalition of nations, it's also a credit to Zelenskyy himself, and his charisma and his ability to make these emotional appeals to the world as we saw as he just did, addressing the G7. His ability to bring all those countries together in support of Ukraine.

KING: And because he can't get a yes from NATO to membership, he is likely to get more yes to his requests for heavy weapons. So, Zelenskyy understands leverage. He understands what he's doing. Up next for us. They are not here to hurt me. A star witness gives stunning testimony, retelling what Donald Trump was saying and what he was doing on January 6. Some see Cassidy Hutchinson's account as a smoking gun and building a criminal case against the former president.




KING: Now let's turn to the new portrait of Donald Trump in the middle of the insurrection. The account given in shocking detail from a Trump White House insider, lays out a damning, beyond damning picture to sum, it erases any doubt Trump's conduct was not only corrupt but criminal. To others, it proves whatever you thought of Trump's first term, he is now to stained to win a second.

Cassidy Hutchinson sat steps from Trump Oval Office. Tuesday, she went under oath. Told the January 6 committee what she saw and what she overheard. She overheard. Trump knew the rioters had weapons. He knew that when he told them to march to the Capitol, they were armed. He wanted to join them. And he lost it. She says when he was told he could not.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: The President had a very strong, very angry response to that. Tony described him as being irate. The president said something to the effect of, I'm the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.


KING: Hutchinson, also telling the committee, President Trump was OK with the mob trying to hang his vice president, "Mike deserves it". Then there's this, the committee says it now has evidence of potential witness intimidation by Donald Trump's orbit. The new insight adds dramatically to what we know about the former president state of mind, and for at least two select committee members. Hutchinson erased any doubt, this is now a case for the justice department.



REP. ELAINE LURIA, (D) JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: Evidence we've displayed over the course of our hearings, especially including the very damning evidence that was provided today. There is no doubt in my mind that he was involved in criminal activity. JOHN BERMAN, CNN O-ANCHOR NEW DAY: Do you believe they constitute witness tampering?

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D) JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: Yes, I do. And I think that that's something that should be looked at by our committee and potentially by the Department of Justice.


KING: Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill, our correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, this hearing was a surprise when it was scheduled, and wow, when it was over.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No doubt about that, John. And the reason that the committee put this hearing on the schedule after previously deciding not to is because they had received new information from Cassidy Hutchinson. Just in the last 10 days, that they felt precipitated them rushing this hearing, getting it on the books and getting this information out into the public sphere.

And to your point about, what this means for the committee going forward, and whether or not they'll continue to push the Department of Justice to a criminally charged. Donald Trump continues to be an open question within the committee, behind closed doors. You know, we believe that the majority of the committee believes that Donald Trump committed a crime, some of them, as you point out, are now willing to say that publicly.

The question is, will they take that dramatic step of offering up a formal criminal referral to the Department of Justice. That's something the committee remains split upon. And there's an open debate as to whether or not, they could just continue to present the evidence and allow the Department of Justice to take that evidence and deal with it as they see fit, or whether or not they put that political pressure on them in the form of a criminal referral, which really has no legal way, it would just be just a political pressure campaign toward Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice.

The one thing we know for sure, John, is that even though they continue to roll out these hearings, even though they continue to present evidence, they're still not done collecting evidence. And they make that clear in the hearing. They're still asking people to come forward, and to provide information about what they may or may not know about what happened during that period of time between the election and on January 6. And they're still deposing witnesses. They're still collecting evidence.

So, while this investigation, we're learning a lot more about it over the course of these hearings. We'll learn more about it when they do another round of hearings sometime in July. It doesn't mean by any stretch that the investigation is over. They still have a final report that they will issue sometime in the fall. And they're continuing to gather and disseminate this information. So, this is a long way from this situation being concluded. John?

KING: Remarkable. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill. Ryan, thank you. Let's bring the conversation back in the room and former federal prosecutor Shan Wu joins our conversation. So, I think sometimes we don't speak in clear detail enough, about how difficult a decision this is for the attorney general. This is a former president of the United States. But if you're a former federal prosecutor, if you're sitting there and you're trying to build a case, to go to the attorney general and say, I believe we should charge Donald Trump. What did Cassidy Hutchinson give you?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It was very helpful, because it gave them a lot of details about what the inner circle was one aware of, and two what they were doing. So, if you're talking about what they were aware of, obviously, they're now aware that there were dangerous people with arms heading towards the Capitol, Trump apparently was too.

And also, I think it's important to think about the fact that they were taking specific actions. Meadows wants to go to this war room to meet with Giuliani and Eastman, but there is no reason for him to be doing that. There is nothing wrong, as the attorney general saying there's nothing wrong with the election, no fraud, and yet they're still taking active steps to interfere with the election. That's very damning evidence.

KING: A White House chief of staff saying, I'm going to go over this with Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani and the people. That's just one piece of evidence. You mentioned, Trump aware. This is Cassidy Hutchinson relaying to the fact that it was the January 6, and the president was got to the site and looked out, and apparently didn't like the crowd because there weren't enough people inside the barricaded area. He wanted more people led in. They told him that people were being turned away because they were armed. The president Cassidy Hutchinson says, said this.


HUTCHINSON: I ever heard the president say something to the effect of, you know, I don't even care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people and they can march the Capitol from here. Let the people in and take the effing mags away.


KING: They're not here to hurt me. That is a, at least the knowledge on his part that he knew they were coming. He knew they were armed, and he was OK with it.

DIAMOND: Yes. And then to me, that was the most damaging and damning revelation from this entire testimony, was the fact that we knew previously that Trump had encouraged this mob to go to Capitol Hill. He said so in this speech. Go fight, use the words fight. Now we know that he used those words, knowing that those people, many people in that crowd were armed because they weren't being led in through the mags.

[12:20:00] And so, as much as for example, that scene in the presidential SUV where the president is apparently reaching for the steering wheel. As much as that is colorful and shocking, it is not frankly as damaging politically and potentially legally I think, as the fact that Trump actually knew that these people were armed.

And that despite that fact, he still encouraged them to go ahead and marched to the Capitol. And that's why Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony. Look, we already had this kind of pretty damning portrait of Trump on that day and in the days leading up to it. This would provide several missing puzzle pieces to really put this all together.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And just to provide a visual of what that means on the ground, I mean, I started January 6 at the ellipse, and I remember as you're going down (audio gap)


HUTCHINSON: As reached up towards the front of the vehicle - your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the west wing. We're not going to the Capitol. Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel, and when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned toward his collarbone (audio gap)


KING: You're in Trump land now, or if you're one of the House Republicans who refuses to listen to all this damning testimony, you're trying to go after her credibility.

SOTOMAYOR: Oh, absolutely. And that is one of the things, you know, when I was texting some Republican aides to lawmakers on the Hill. That's exactly what they were saying. They were trying to diminish her role. I heard even before Trump said, you know, I barely knew her, she was barely around. Many people who work for a lot of these lawmakers that were close to Trump at the time saying, you know, she tried to stay on after leaving the White House and we all push back.

We said, you know, she isn't incredible, she isn't trustworthy. And her testimony isn't going to really sway anyone within the base. It's not really going to sway voters. This is not front of mind for them. So, you know, when it comes to at least talking about this upcoming election, they don't think it has anything to do with it. But they don't want to talk about the next election, especially if Trump wants to run in 2014.

KANNO-YOUNGS: I've been talking to some of those secret service officials too. And the sources who say that those agents are going to be more prepared to testify under oath and dispute those two specific things that there was the lunch for the wheel, but also the physical interaction here.

So, we do need more details there at this point. We do need more details. If they're saying that was not what happened. We need to know what did happen in the car at that point. And to Jeremy's earlier point, just want to say, talking to those sources yesterday, they do say that they are not going to dispute that Trump demand to go to the Capitol, which I do think is an important?

KING: And again, she's under oath, she's under oath. Everything you're hearing from the former president, everything you hear from the defense side covered the White House for a long time, great respect for the Secret Service, they're issuing a statement that is not under oath. So, the (Inaudible) the people who voted there, let them go on testify under oath. And we'll clear it up that way.

Another big thing, Congresswoman Cheney, the vice chair, has this pattern of at the end of a hearing teeing up the next one or what's to come to capture your attention. They've been very effective at it. Yesterday, she said at the end that the committee now has to Ryan's point they're continuing to gather evidence. She says they're getting evidence that the witnesses, there's some sort of influence effort or maybe intimidation or tampering. Listen?


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R) VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: One witness described phone calls from people interested in that witness's testimony. Well, what they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I'm on the right team. I'm doing the right thing. I'm protecting who I need to protect. You know, I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump world.



KING: From a crime perspective, what does that tell you?

WU: That's low hanging fruit for the Justice Department. They don't need to wade into the politics unprecedented prosecuting a president, looks like witness tampering, they can investigate it. And anyone who was found to have made those statements, probably a prosecution. So, that's low hanging fruit easy to go after that standalone.

KING: Where is the line between what did you tell the committee? Or be careful what you tell the committee or we're watching you, as you talk to the committee? Where's the line?

WU: Line there is really, the prosecutorial discretion and what is the intent behind that? And honestly, if you're talking to the person who sent that message, it's like, what innocuous explanation is there. I just want to make sure that they were reminded of how serious it was, doesn't make any sense.

DIAMOND: Let's also keep in mind that this is not a one off, right? Like this is how Trump has operated in his business life, and in his political life throughout Michael Cohen talked about the way that Trump would intimate certain things without actually saying them explicitly, but that his intention was always very clear. And so, this is the kind of language that Trump and the people who have surrounded him have been known to us before.

We're going to come back to this conversation more on yesterday's testimony and what it means a bit later, but when we come back after 53 migrants who's their life, a Texas Sheriff, writing to President Biden for help. And that Sheriff also says, the Texas governor Republican Greg Abbott, using immigration as a campaign stuff.